A Centreville couple sends a big "danke schöen" to famed singer Wayne Newton for helping make their engagement so special. Happily playing Cupid in the middle of his Las Vegas show, Newton gave his microphone to Rick Leith so he could ask Michele Johnson to marry him.
"We had no idea he would stop the show for us," said Leith, 34, of Crofton Commons. "I got to ask her in front of 1,000 people."
A 1988 West Springfield graduate, Leith is the son of Lyne and Richard Leith of Fairfax Station. Johnson, a 1996 Centreville High grad, is the daughter of Karen and Michael Johnson of Centre Ridge. The couple plans an October 2005 wedding.
Rick works in government contracting at GTSI in Chantilly, and Michele, 26, is a senior case-manager at the battered-women's shelter in Arlington. And they both love music.
"I play in a rock band," he said. "Michele came to a show, 2 1/2 years ago, and it was love at first sight. I liked how nice and friendly she was. She was easy to talk to — and to look at."
"I liked his openness," said Johnson. "He seemed to be friendly with everybody and made the time to talk to everyone who came to his show."
They started dating a month later. And about three months afterward, they and another couple took a vacation to Las Vegas. Leith and Johnson had so much fun, they decided to return someday. Realizing that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Johnson, Leith eventually told her parents and his that he wanted to marry her. The couple planned to vacation in Las Vegas, Oct. 3-7, and Leith decided to pop the question on one of the gondolas at the Venetian hotel.
"Michele knows me so well that she thought that might be something I'd want to do," said Leith. "So she told her mom — who then told me to change the plan if I wanted to surprise her. Someone at my office suggested [asking her at] the Wayne Newton show, since he's 'Mr. Romance, Mr. Vegas.'"
So Leith told Johnson that he got a special deal online on tickets to the show. "I thought she'd never in a million years suspect anything there," he said. "Then I e-mailed Wayne on his Web site and told him how much I love Michele and that we consider Vegas our second home.
"Since his name is so synonymous with romance, I told him it would be the perfect place for me to ask her to marry me, and I'd appreciate if he'd dedicate a special song to us," said Leith. "I also wanted him to come down and say hello and give us his blessing in person."
WITHIN 24 hours, Newton's publicist e-mailed back, requesting details about Leith's plan. And when Leith mentioned the publicist's name when purchasing their show tickets, he and Johnson got the best seats in the house. The show was Oct. 4 in the Wayne Newton Theater in the Stardust Hotel.
The couple arrived around 9:30 p.m., and the place was packed. But Leith, Johnson and another couple — Newton super-fans — were seated at a table against the stage. "People were asking us how we got such good seats," said Johnson.
Newton performed for about 45 minutes, and Leith called him excellent. "As a musician — I play drums and sing — I was very impressed with him and his orchestra," he said. Then came birthday and anniversary song dedications.
"My heart was beating so hard," said Leith. "Then Wayne stopped in the middle of a song and gave an impassioned speech about how love comes once in a lifetime, and you have to take advantage of it."
"It was a beautiful speech," said Johnson. "And then he said his wife had read him one of his e-mails and was so touched by it — and it was Rick's.”
"He came to our table and talked to us," said Leith. "Then he gave me his microphone to ask Michele to marry me, in front of about 1,000 people."
"I was in shock," said Johnson. "Rick had placed the ring in front of me, and I had no idea it was there."
Leith said Newton's actions surprised him as much as Johnson. "We both ended up crying a little bit," she said.
"It was a very emotional time," said Leith. "Then Wayne sang 'Nobody Knows but Me,' a slow, romantic ballad."
"It was unreal — the whole evening was amazing, and Wayne Newton was great," Johnson said.
"He was so good to us — we really appreciate it," said Leith. "I still can't believe it. I couldn't have imagined that it would turn out so wonderful."